IF YOU’RE READING THIS you’re a guinea pig.
I’m test-driving a new idea for a Friday feature. As I work through my research during the week, I’m going to look for a little-known fact from the Bible or Bible history. And I’m gonna let you in on it.
You can think of it as a Friday Fun Fact. Or not. Friday Fun Fact is hard to say three times quickly.
If you can do it, say “Can do,” in a comment box on this post and I’ll put your name in a drawing for a free book I’ll give away later today. You will be pleased to know that very few people generally comment. So your odds of getting a free book are high.
Here is the world’s first Friday Fun Fact.
Mark Antony wasn’t the smartest horny toad in the pond.
The dude was married to Octavia, little sis of the most powerful man on earth: 20-something-year-old Gaius Octavian, better known as Caesar Augustus.
Mark A should have known better than to fraternize like crazy-be-daisy with Cleopatra in Egypt.
You don’t do that sort of thing when your wife’s big brother has a navy.
Augustus and Mark A had been allies once upon a time. They crushed an army led by two men who had orchestrated the assassination of Julius Caesar, the uncle of Augustus. The two losers were Brutus and Cassius. They both ended up dead in the dirt.
With those enemies defeated, Augustus and Mark A turned on each other.
Mark A left his wife behind and sailed south to Egypt. There, he hooked up with Cleopatra in every way you can imagine. Then he declared himself co-ruler of Egypt, with this lady who had once been the lover of Julius Caesar. She liked Italian.
Augustus declared war on his brother-in-law and The Other Woman, doing pretty much what many brother’s-in-law would do if they owned a navy.
In 31 BC Augustus sailed his fleet toward Greece, where Mark A’s ships were waiting.
Sadly for the Egyptians, their military fought better with their feet on the ground. They were never a people famous for seafaring ways, like the Phoenicians of what is now Lebanon – those gents knew how to sail.
It didn’t help Mark A much that:
- his fleet got hit with a round of malaria while waiting for the Romans to show up
- one of his generals defected to the Roman side, taking Mark A’s battle plans with him
- Cleopatra got cold feet at the last second and signaled for the ships to retreat before the battle started – a signal Mark A and many others never got.
Egyptians outnumbered the Romans. Big deal, given the three bullet points above.
Romans: 250 ships, 19,000 soldiers
Egyptians: more than 300 ships, 22,000 soldiers
The sea battle took place off the coast of Actium, Greece, beginning on the morning of September 2, 31 BC.
Egyptians lost about 200 ships sunk or captured, along with about a fourth of their soldiers killed.
Cleopatra and Mark A, sailing on separate ships, managed to escape.
In the months that followed, so many of Mark A’s men deserted that he no longer had enough of an army to fight.
Then he got the really bad news.
On August 1, 30 BC he heard that Cleopatra had been captured. He heard wrong. Thinking she was a goner, he stabbed himself.
He lived long enough to get himself carried to Cleopatra, where he reportedly died in her arms.
Cleopatra killed herself a couple of weeks later, on August 13. Snake-bit according to one report – a deadly asp nestled inside a basket of sweet figs.
Oddly enough, the period of Roman history that followed is known as Pax Romana, Latin for “Roman Peace.” Romans made it illegal for kingdoms inside the Empire to fight each other.
But to get to this point, one dickens of a lot of people had to Rest In Peace.
If you enjoy this sort of background to Bible times, you might like the book coming out in September:
9-minute interview with Steve about the Illustrated Bible Dictionary